Last Known Activity 506th PIR Co. E, 2nd Battalion (Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne )
Enlisted in 1942. Earned three Purple Heart's and a�Bronze Star. Discharged from service in 1945 and later moved to California to live with family members. Moved to Washington in 1951.
James H. Alley, Jr., 85, a resident of Sedro-Woolley and died on Friday, March 14, 2008. Jim was born on July 20, 1922 in Mount Ida, AR,� s/o Grace V. (Davis) & James H. Alley who owned Henry Alley Hardware's store in Mt. Ida in 1930 (census). It had a hitching rail in front to tie up horses. Jim was raised and attended school in Arkansas and from there in 1942 enlisted into the U.S. Army during WW II where he was a paratrooper with the 101st Air Borne Division. He joined the company in Toccoa shortly after it had been formed and remained with it through the war. Jim was depicted in the HBO mini series "The Band of Brothers", telling the story of the 101st Division's D'Day jump into Germany and the battles they encountered, and Jim was one of the few to make it to Hitler's retreat. He was the recipient of three Purple Hearts and four Bronze Stars for his service in Normandy, Central Europe, Rhineland and Ardennes. After he got wounded he decided that when he had to face combat again, it was going to be with E-Company. He felt that E-Company was the greatest bunch of guys in the world. After his discharge in 1945 he moved with his family to California, living there until 1951 when he moved to Washington. Jim was a general contractor, mostly in the King County area, remodeling and building homes and commercial buildings. Memorial Services with Military Honors were held on Saturday, March 22, 2008 at the First Baptist Church in Sedro-Woolley with Pastor Kirby Bertholf officiating.
You were one of the original members of the company, weren't you? Yes, I joined the company in Toccoa shortly after it had been formed and remained with it through the war.
Didn't you receive one of your wounds during the Holland operation? Yes, I was wounded on the Island on October 5. If it weren't for Joe Lesniewski, I would not be here today. I was shooting at a German, and I felt this thud. Joe shoved me and yelled, "Grenade!". His warning gave me just enough time to turn my body from the blast. The next thing I remember was coming to and running around. Rod Strohl got me out of there and back to the company.
Your wounds almost ended your time with Company E, didn't they? Almost. After two months in the hospital recovering from the grenade blast, I was sent to a replacement depot. I knew I would be assigned to another company. "No way", I thought. "I am not going back into combat with another unit". If I had to face combat again, it was going to be with Easy Company. So I decided to go AWOL.
How did you make it back to Company E after you had been away for two months? I sold my German luger to get a little money and set off for Paris. I knew that if I could make it to Paris, I would find somebody in the 101st, and they could direct me to Easy. Well, after I got to Paris, who should I see walking down the street but Dick Winters. He looked at me and said. "Alley, what in the hell are you doing here?" I said, "Looking for you, sir". Winters found me transport back to the company. I arrived at Mourmelon on December 15.
That was just a few days before the regiment was alerted to travel up to Bastogne. How did you react to the news of the breakthrough when it reached Mourmelon-le-Grand? I had only been back for two days when we got the word of the breakthrough. We were all a little stunned at first. I didn't see how we could go anywhere in the condition we were in. I didn't even have a gun at first. Finally, somebody issued me one, but I didn't have much ammunition. After the shock of the alert wore off, however, we were all just a little resigned. I remember a lot of the guys saying, "Here we go again".
What was the ride up to the front like, and how did you react when you saw GIs streaming to the rear? The ride up was pretty rough. You had to stand up most of the time; you could not sit down. It was miserable, but we had to cope with it. It was worse because we had no idea where we were going. We didn't really travel through Bastogne. I believe we sort of cut around it and then headed up the road toward Foy. As we went down that road, we could hear shellfire, small arms, machine guns and everything else. We were heading toward it, and coming in the other direction were all these other guys. They were literally running. They were shouting at us: "Man, you don't want to go up there. They are just running us over". Most of them had already thrown away their guns, but I was able to get ammunition from one or two of them. We were pretty upset with these guys, and we told them that they were going in the wrong damn direction. There was no stopping them, though; they were just scared to death. Finally, an officer came up in a jeep loaded with ammunition and doled some of it out to us.
How did you take the news that the 101st was surrounded? Did you ever dispair? No, we never worried about it. A lot of us reacted to the news with, "They got us surrounded, the poor bastards". We were used to being surrounded. We were dug in and had good positions, so we were ready for whatever happened.
After reaching the front, the company was sent to positions in Bois Jacques, where it quickly got involved in some fighting. Please describe what that was like? We got off the trucks at Champs and then marched east through Bastogne and set up positions in these woods outside the town of Foy. When I settled in my foxhole, Which I shared with Paul Rogers, I realized I had only one grenade and very little ammunition for my rifle. Nevertheless, we were immediately placed on outpost duty, which was six hours per shift. We hadn't been out there long when the Germans hit us pretty hard. We repulsed the attack and had finished our shift when the Germans shelled our positions pretty bad. That is when Walter Gordon was wounded pretty badly.
Did this sort of routine continue? Yes, the same thing happened over the next several days. One of the worst days was December 24. They hit us about 8:30 in the morning with a full company of SS troops. Then the artillery shelled us. To add to it, the luftwaffe bombed us all night long.
What other difficulties did you face?
The weather was also a factor. We had no cold-weather clothing. I covered my feet with burlap sacks to keep them from freezing. That worked for a while, but then the sacks froze, and it felt like I had two suitcases on my feet. Te cold was awful. I honostly don't know how in the hell we survived.
Can you describe what it was like when you heard that the 101st had been relieved? We didn't really know what it meant. We soon found out, though. We were taken off the line for a few days, and then we were right back in it, attacking Foy.
How long did your new round of fighting last? We kept fighting through January. We had a short time off the line, but we were back in combat by January 2, and we were still in our positions in Bois Jacques when we were shelled terribly on January 3. That is when we lost Bill Guarnere and Joe Toye (both wounded). On the 13th we continued our attack on Foy. The town was full of snipers. One of them had what was left of the 3rd Platoon pinned down pretty good. He shot and killed Frank Mellet right in front of me. Finally, Shifty Powers got the sniper with a shot right between the eyes. Even after we took the town, though, it was still dangerous. At one point we were in the town when all of a sudden an 88 round came crashing in. It landed in the snow and was a dud- thank goodness, as it landed between a couple of us who had no place to go. If it had been live, I wouldn't have made it. It scared the hell out of us.
After all you had been through was Foy the end for you? No, after Foy we got the word that we were going to attack Noville. I remember thinking to myself, "My God, they won't be happy until they kill every last one of us". After what we had been through, I wondered how they could tell us to attack again. We went, though. There was no complaining. We knew it had to be done, and we were going to do it. Complaining wasn't going to change anything.
What were your final days in the Ardennes like, and can you describe how you felt when you finally got a respite? I remember the last town we were in was Rachamps. It was the last place we took, and they shelled us the whole night before we left. Finally, they pulled us back out to some buildings, and we were given a chance to rest in what was left of a couple of them. Even though we were all crammed into these two buildings, being off the line felt damn good.
Do you have any final thought about Easy Company? I think all of the attention we are receiving is a terrific honor. I just hope it is not blown out of proportion. I know some of the other companies and regiments in the division will be upset about all of this attention. I know that what we went through was the same as any other company in the division. We are not special. We didn;t win the war single-handedly; there were milions of folks in the service during World War II, and they all had a hand in the victory. I know that my life would have been different without the men of Company E. It was such a great experience to meet so many terrific guys. The greatest bunch of guys in the world. It is still quite a group.
Other Comments: Awards: CIB, Jump Wings 3 Combat Jumps, Bronze Star, Purple Heart w/2 Oak leaf Clusters, Good Conduct Medal, ADM,�EAME W/4�Bronze Stars, WW II Victory, Army Occupation Medal, French Croix de Gueere, Dutch Orange Laynard, Belgium Croix de Gueere.
Enlisted: 22-Sep-42 at Little Rock, AK. County: Montgomery. Infantry�
4 years of high school�
Semiskilled structural- and ornamental-metal workers�
Single, without dependents
Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law�
Army of the United States - includes the following: Voluntary enlistments effective December 8, 1941 and thereafter; One year enlistments of National Guardsman whose State enlistment expires while in the Federal Service; Officers appointed in the Army of the United States under Army Regulations 605-10